Sunday, 7 August 2016

August 2016: number one


NUMBER ONE






We can learn a lot from studying our urine. When I was young, in Holland we used to have toilets with a little platform, so we could see what we had produced. I gather they still have them in Germany. Things are less clear with the British, more considerate, system. However, it can be useful to be aware of what's going on.

The LOOK
If everything is normal and healthy, the colour of your urine should be a pale yellow to gold.
If it has no colour at all, you may have been drinking a lot of water or taking a diuretic [1]. But there are other possibilities.
Very dark honey coloured, orange or brown: you’re dehydrated and need to get more fluids right away. It could also warn of liver problems, or bile in your urine.
Pink or red: you’ve eaten carrots, blackberries, beets, or rhubarb. It can also be an effect of medications. If not, there may be blood in your urine, caused by kidney disease, a UTI (urinary tract infection, see below), prostate problems, or a tumor.
Bright yellow or orange: you may have had a lot of vitamins C or B2, carrots, beets - or it can be caused by medications.
Blue or green: shows food dye or medications, or, possibly, a few rare conditions.
Foamy or frothy: a sign of protein in your urine, which may mean you have kidney issues.
Cloudy urine suggests the presence of phosphates, possibly a precursor of kidney stones. Cloudiness can also indicate an infection. If it worsens and you feel burning or urgency, you may have a UTI - see below.

The SMELL
Ammonia means dehydration: drink!
Sweet-smelling urine may be a sign of diabetes or liver disease.
Foul smell can mean you have a UTI. Other symptoms are: burning during urination, fever, chills, and back pain.
Asparagus has its own aroma, but coffee and vitamin B6 supplements can also affect the urine.

The FREQUENCY
If you’re constantly feeling the urge to go, without drinking any extra fluids, this can indicate: an overactive bladder, a UTI, interstitial cystitis, or diabetes. Urgency means you need to go right away, have difficulty holding it in, and wake up several times to use the bathroom.
For men, urgency and frequency could be symptoms of a bladder problem or, more commonly, an enlarged prostate. Prostate problems can also cause incomplete emptying of your bladder, so you still feel like you have to go again minutes later. This is not something to be ignored, and won’t go away on its own.
Increased frequency and urgency in women may be a symptom of infection, kidney stones, or a more serious condition.
Don't assume drinking less water will lessen the trouble, for dehydration can cause urinary issues too.

Check with the doctor if you notice a change in your pee that doesn’t seem linked to new medications or a recent meal - especially if it lasts more than a day or so, or if it comes with fever, back or side pain, vomiting, feeling very thirsty, or discharge. 
For more detail, see http://www.webmd.com/urinary-incontinence-oab/truth-about-urine and http://www.lifescript.com/health/centers/oab/articles/what_your_urine_says_about_your_health.aspx.


INCONTINENCE

There is stress-, urge-, and overflow incontinence [2], each of which needs a slightly different approach. For exercises and other natural remedies, see

The risk of getting a UTI is increased if you don’t drink enough, have frequent baths (retrograde infection) or wait long to urinate; or if you are pregnant, menopausal or use a catheder. With diabetes the risk is worse, as a high sugar level in the urine is very favourable for bacteria.
Make sure you use cotton underwear, wipe from front to back, urinate before and after sexual activity and don’t wear tight clothes.
Though most will want to take their UTIs straight to the doctor, there are things you can do yourself once you have it.
Drink plenty of water! Avoid drinks that may irritate your bladder: coffee, alcohol, and soft drinks containing citrus juices or caffeine. Unsweetened cranberry juice, blueberries, and vitamin C are excellent. For more food and drinks which help, see http://everydayroots.com/uti-remedies.
See also http://www.everydayhealth.com/urinary-tract-infections/helpful-home-remedies-for-urinary-tract-infections.aspx.

And since you ask, yes, unless you have kidney problems, you can drink your own urine. See http://www.innerself.com/Health/urine.htm.


PS
“Full-fat food can reduce obesity."
“Leading public health bodies collude with food industry”
“The recent Eatwell Guide from Public Health England was produced with a large number of people from the food and drinks industry.”
Says the independent professional organisation Public Health Collaboration.
Who knew? If you read Thought for Food regularly, you did. [3]


And some good news: Asda now sells boxes of imperfect in-season vegetables! One box will feed a family of four for a week and costs £3.50 – 30% less than standard lines. [4]



~~~~~~~~

EAT:
Veg: aubergines, french/runner/broad beans, calabrese, cauli, cucumbers, fennel, chard, spinach (beet), summer squash, sweetcorn, globe artichokes, beet, carrots, courgettes, cabbage, kohlrabi, lettuce, peas, peppers, radish, turnip, marrow, tomatoes, spring onions, salsify/scorzonera, samphire, rocket, watercress.
Cheap, free range good-for-you meat: rabbit and wood pigeon. Puffballs!
Fish is excellent at this time of year: mackerel, black bream, crab, grey mullet, trout, scallops, sea bass, flounder.

SOW:
Chinese cabbage, spring cabbage, chicory, kohl rabi, lettuce for harvesting November/December, quick variety peas, mooli (=white) and black radish, chard, spinach beet. Lamb's lettuce (corn salad), rocket and especially land cress will survive the winter.
Perpetual spinach, (spinach beet, or leaf beet) tastes as good as 'true' spinach, is more forgiving of soil and weather and doesn't go to seed so quickly. Sow now for winter/spring crop.
Early August only: chard, florence fennel, spring onions, turnip.

BRAISED LETTUCE and PEAS for 2.
2 roundhead lettuces, 1 tblsp oil/butter, 3 thinly sliced shallots or 1 onion, 1 tblsp flour, 200ml stock/water, 300g (frozen) peas, (3 tblsp yoghurt or sour cream).
Remove lettuce cores, halve and thinly slice the leaves. Sauté the shallots, ab. 2 mins. Add flour, stir, ab. 30 secs. Add stock, bring to the boil. Stir in the lettuce and peas, cover, and simmer until they are both tender. (Stir in yoghurt or sour cream.) Season.

PARSLEY SALAD: served as a small sidedish to go with meat. Enough for 8 people, but the leftovers will keep. 
100g Italian parsley, 2 tblsp fresh lemon juice, 2 tblsp lemon zest, 6 tblsp walnut oil, 2 tsp dark sesame oil, 1 tsp honey, salt, pepper, 3 tblsp toasted sesame seeds.
Discard parsley stems. Whisk together lemon juice, zest, walnut oil, sesame oil, honey, salt and pepper. Add parsley and sesame seeds and mix. Let sit for at least 30 mins so that flavours meld.

For more recipes, see former August issues: click on 2016 at the right hand side of this page. 



[1] Normally drinking too much does not matter, but if you go really over the top this can lead to hyponatremia, which occurs when someone drinks so much liquid the body’s balance of sodium to water goes off-kilter - a dangerous condition. Other risk factors for hyponatremia include some medications and medical conditions, such as kidney disease.


Next month: forgetfulness or Alzheimer's?





August 2015: diarrhoea




What to eat and drink when you have DIARRHOEA
(or: who needs Imodium?)




Bananas: 
Bland and easily digested, bananas are rich in pectin, a soluble fibre that helps to absorb liquid in the intestines. Their high level of potassium helps to replace lost electrolytes. Bananas also contain inulin, a prebiotic, which promotes the growth of beneficial bacteria (probiotics).

White rice and (peeled) mashed potatoes
Low in fibre, they're easily digested. Eat rice and potatoes plain; the fat in butter irritates and contributes to intestinal cramping.

Applesauce
Apples, too, are a good source of pectin. However, the fibre in raw apples makes them too rough for a dicey intestinal system, so they need to be cooked. Cooked carrots are also good.

Yoghurt
Generally, dairy products should be avoided during acute diarrhea, but yoghurt is excellent. Look for a type that contains live or active cultures, or more specifically Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacterium bifidum.

Steamed Chicken
Steamed chicken is a bland, easily digested source of protein. However, avoid the use of butter or oil.

Blueberries
Either chew dried blueberries or make a tea by boiling crushed dried blueberries for 10 minutes. They contain tannins, an astringent, which contracts tissue and reduces inflammation and secretion of liquids and mucus. Blueberries contain not only pectin, but anthocyanosides, which have antibacterial properties, as well as being a good source of antioxidants.

Peppermint tea
Peppermint soothes the gastrointestinal system. It calms and relaxes the intestinal muscles, reducing spasms. It also reduces gas. [1] 
Other herbs for diarrhoea are: sage, plantain, lavender, lady’s mantle, bramble, nettles and salad burnet.

Avoid foods with high sugar content. Don’t consume lots of fibre, which is in: nuts, seeds, fruit and whole grain products. Stay away from caffeinated drinks, spicy/fried foods and full-strength fruit juices.

ALSO
do keep eating: you will recover sooner if you don’t fast. 
sugar is bad (where did I hear that before?): it “passes right through you and draws water and salts out of the body, leading to vomiting”. Diet drinks are even worse. By far best are starchy liquids: a thick soup or drink made from any starchy food, such as rice, corn, wheat or potatoes. [3]

CAUSES:
Of course, it is important to know the reason for your trouble. This may be:
* bacteria and parasites
* medications [4]
* surgery or radiation therapy
* digestive disorders such as celiac disease, ulcerative colitis, irritable bowel syndrome or Crohn’s disease.
* food intolerance, such as difficulty digesting dairy products. Artificial sweeteners and fructose can also cause diarrhoea.


~~~

Timothy Caulfield, Canada Research Chair in Health Law and Policy, Health Senior Scholar with the Alberta Heritage Foundation for Medical Research, Research Director for the University of Alberta’s Health Law Institute and Trudeau Fellow:
“The real secrets of a long life? Don’t smoke, exercise, eat real food, watch your weight, wear a seatbelt, get a good night’s sleep and love somebody.” [5]

 ~~~

Did you know that yellow grapefruit have got 50% more beneficial flavanones than the, sweeter, red or pink variety? Bitterness is being bred out of our fruit and veg, to the detriment of our health. See the New Scientist article "Bitter Truth", under 'August' in the right hand column. 

 ~~~

EAT:
Veg: aubergines, french/runner/broad beans, calabrese, cauli, cucumbers, fennel, chard, spinach (beet), summer squash, sweetcorn, globe artichokes, beet, carrots, courgettes, cabbage, kohlrabi, lettuce, peas, peppers, radish, turnip, marrow, tomatoes, spring onions, salsify/scorzonera, samphire, rocket, watercress.
Cheap, free range good-for-you meat: rabbit and wood pigeon. Puffballs!
Fish is excellent at this time of year: mackerel, black bream, crab, grey mullet, trout, scallops, sea bass, flounder.

SOW:
Chinese cabbage, spring cabbage, chicory, kohl rabi, lettuce for harvesting November/December, quick variety peas, winter-hardy spring onions, salad leaves, fast-maturing carrots (Adelaide), endive,  red, white (= mooli) and black radish, spinach beet. Lamb's lettuce (corn salad), rocket and especially land cress will survive the winter.
Perpetual spinach, (spinach beet, or leaf beet) tastes as good as 'true' spinach, is more forgiving of soil and weather and doesn't go to seed so quickly. Sow now for winter/spring crop.
Early August only: chard, florence fennel, turnip.
Plantcauliflowers (early in the month), winter cabbages, kale.  


RECIPES

BROAD BEANS with SOUR CREAM
1k unshelled broad beans, 1 tsp lemon juice, 1 tsp grated rind, 1 tsp mustard, 1 beaten egg yolk, 120ml sour cream, nutmeg, 1 tsp chopped mint, (2 tsp brown sugar), salt, little soy.
Shell beans, steam till tender. Put everything bar the yolk in a pan. Let thicken over low heat. Add yolk, stir but don't boil. Serve immediately. 

RUNNER BEAN STEW serves 2
300g runner beans, 3 tblsp olive oil, 3 sliced garlic cloves, chilli powder, 2 cloves, 400g tomatoes and some tomato puree or 2x400g tins; basil, grated cheese.
Destring beans and cut on the diagonal into 1cm pieces. Heat oil in a frying pan, add garlic. Cook for 1-2 mins then add beans, potatoes, chilli and cloves. Cook for 2 mins, then tip in the (drained) tomatoes (and puree). Cover and cook for 20-30 minutes until the beans are tender and the sauce is thick and rich. You may want to add a bit of water while this is cooking, but don't add too much. Stir through the basil just before serving and season to taste. Serve with grain or pasta and grated cheese.

FRENCH BEANS and CARROTS SAUTEED in BUTTER and GARLIC
300g French beans, 2 large carrots, butter, chopped garlic, salt, pepper.
Trim beans and cut carrots into sticks the same size as the beans. Cook carrots until they start to soften but are not yet done. Add beans to carrots, cook some more. The veg should be just a bit underdone. Drain, set aside. When almost ready to serve, heat butter until foamy, throw in garlic and veg, stir for 2 mins. Season.

BROAD BEANS with CHARD and DILL
280g shelled broad beans, 280g sliced chard (leaves and stems), 5 tbsp butter, 1 diced onion, 8 tbsp chopped fresh or 1.5 tsp dried dill; 1/2 tsp salt. 
Heat butter: when foaming, add onion and stir for 1 min. Add beans, saute 1 min. Add chard and dill, stir for some mins. Add salt and 3 tbsp water. Cover tightly and simmer for 15 mins. Serve hot or warm with grains or pitta bread. (Gardenorganic).

FRENCH BEANS and MUSHROOMS with SOUR CREAM
225g French beans, butter, 225g mushrooms, 120 ml crème fraîche, salt, pepper.
Steam beans until just tender, drain. Melt butter and sauté mushrooms on a high heat so they don't lose their juices. Cook slowly until tender. Stir in beans, heat through. Add crème fraîche, season. Cook briefly; serve immediately.

VEGETABLE MARROW HONGROISE
25g butter, 1 marrow, seeded and cut into slivers, 1 tblsp finely chopped onion, 1 tblsp vinegar, dill or the crushed dill seed, salt, pepper, 1 tsp paprika, 1 heaped tsp flour. 
Melt 3/4 of the butter, add marrow, cover and cook until it's soft, stirring frequently. Remove marrow, add the onion to the pan and fry until soft. Stir in vinegar, dill, salt, pepper and paprika, then return the marrow to the pan. Mix and cook gently for 2 mins. Mash the remaining butter with the flour to make a paste and add to the pan, stirring well. Simmer until thick. The dill can be replaced by cumin or coriander. 

COLEY/POLLOCK with CIDER
700g coley or pollock, 250ml cider, 2 onions, green pepper, 3 tomatoes, marjoram, cayenne, 3 tblsp breadcrumbs.
Bring cider to the boil, add onions and green pepper, simmer for 5 mins or until the cider has reduced by 1/4. Remove from heat.
Cut fish into 10 cm pieces: put into ovenproof dish. Stir in cider mix and tomatoes, marjoram, cayenne, salt, pepper. Cover; bake at 170°C for 30 mins or until the fish is cooked: the flesh should flake easily. Uncover and sprinkle breadcrumbs over it. Grill until the topping is lightly browned.
The fish can also be put in a frying pan on top of the cooker, covered with the cider sauce and other ingredients. Cook without lid till done. When done, (and not too wet anymore), cover with breadcrumbs and put under the grill. 

BARE BUTTOCKS in the GRASS (that’s what it’s called in Holland ...)
1-1.2k new potatoes, 500g runner beans, 1 tin ab. 400g white beans, 200g very mature cheese, chives, 150-200ml milk or stock, mustard, 8 gherkins.
Cook potatoes in not too much water - 20 mins. Cut up runner beans, also cook - 10 to 12 mins.
Rinse or drain the white beans, and heat them with the runners for a few minutes. Chop cheese into small cubes. Chop chives. Heat the milk or stock. Mash potatoes and stir in the liquid, then the bean mix, cheese and chives. Season. Heat through till the cheese is just starting to melt. Serve with mustard and gherkins.
For a non-veggie version, serve with sausages instead of cheese.



[4] Antibiotics, while going after bad bacteria, also kill the good ones which protect you. See also http://www.webmd.com/digestive-disorders/medications-that-can-cause-diarrhea

NEXT MONTH: antibiotics




BITTER TRUTH

BITTER TRUTH

how we’re making fruit and veg less healthy by Marta Zaraska

In an effort to cater to our sweet tooth, food producers are making fruit and veg taste less bitter. The trouble is, that's making them worse for us

WHERE have all the white grapefruit gone? When I was a kid, they were almost the only kind around, but today white grapefruit are hard to find in my local shops, often replaced by sweeter pink or red varieties.
I’m not imagining it. Thirty years ago, Florida, the grapefruit capital of North America, produced 27 million boxes of white and 23 million boxes of the coloured varieties. Today, they ship more than twice as many red and pink grapefruit as they do whites ones. And it turns out grapefruit is a bellwether of a more insidious trend. It affects much of the fresh produce aisle, from cauliflower to potatoes, tomatoes and juices. Our fruit and vegetables are becoming less bitter.
On the face of it, reducing bitterness in foods sounds like a great idea. Wouldn’t it be nice if broccoli were always mild and sweet? Supermarkets are already advertising milder Brussels sprouts as “kid friendly”. But there is a catch. The same chemicals that make fruit and veg bitter also imbue them with many of their health benefits. When scientists talk about the healthiness of green tea, dark chocolate, red wine or broccoli, much of what they are talking about is due to bitter chemicals called phytonutrients.

To satisfy our love of sweetness, food manufacturers are now removing many of these substances, causing some people to worry that we are turning bitter fruit and veg into the junk foods of the fresh produce aisle. “Eating fruits and vegetables without phytochemicals would in many ways be analogous to drinking the empty calories of a can of soda,” says Jed Fahey a molecular scientist at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in Baltimore, Maryland. “Yes, you could survive on de-bittered fruits and vegetables, and they would help maintain life, but not good health.” So if our preference for sweet over bitter is prompting the food industry to strip some foods of the very chemicals that make them good for us, what’s to be done? And how can we train our taste buds to better enjoy bitter?
It makes sense that as consumers we favour sweet ingredients – we have evolved to do so. Sweet foods hold the promise of a ready supply of energy. Salty food contains sodium, necessary for our bodies to function properly. Bitter, on the other hand, suggests toxicity, which is why our natural reaction is to want to spit it out. Bitter phytonutrients act as a natural pesticide, protecting plants against all kinds of enemies, from bacteria to insects and cows. Thousands of these nutrients have been identified so far, giving the bitter tang to familiar foodstuffs such as Brussels sprouts and coffee.
But despite phytonutrients being toxic in large doses, a growing body of evidence suggests that small doses can confer a host of health benefits. The elusive white grapefruit is a prime example. Its most prominent phytonutrient is ultra-bitter naringin, which turns out to have anti-ulcer and anti-inflammatory properties. Naringin can also inhibit the growth of breast cancer cells, and induces cervical cancer cells to commit suicide. The sweeter pink and red varieties have substantially less of the stuff.
The mechanism at work is known as hormesis – simply put, it’s the idea that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.
“The reason bitter phytonutrients are cancer preventing is that they can destroy cells. They are healthy because they are toxic,” says Adam Drewnowski, an epidemiologist who studies nutrition at the University of Washington in Seattle. One study, for example, found that eating a diet rich in quercetin, found in green tea, broccoli and red wine, might help protect against lung cancer, especially in heavy smokers.

Sweet tooth
And the list of phytonutrients thought to have anticancer properties is growing. It now includes sinigrin – one of a group called glucosinolates, which give the bitter edge to Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, cabbage and kale (see graphic). There’s also genistein in soya beans, sulforaphane in broccoli, plus potatoes have solanine and tomatoes have tomatine.
Further explanation of the health benefits of phytonutrients may be their antioxidant properties. Antioxidant supplements have come under some scrutiny in recent years. But the thinking is that when eaten as whole foods, rather than supplements, the phytonutrients in bitter fruit and veg trigger our internal antioxidant system to kick in. “These compounds can activate the expression of antioxidant genes that do have the ability to remove oxidants and other potentially toxic compounds,” says Henry Jay Forman of the University of Southern California.
A dose of the bitter stuff seems to have benefits for heart health, too. Phytonutrients in cocoa, coffee or berries can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease – and not only due to their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. They also help to prevent the build-up of plaque in the arteries.
Even so, we evolved to recoil at the taste of substances that might poison us, rather than favour them for any benefits relating to cancer or heart disease, which usually affect us after we have reproduced. This aversion to bitterness is especially strong in around a third of us. “Because they are bitter, for years we have been removing phytonutrients from the food supply,” says Drewnowski.
As a result, what we eat today is noticeably less bitter than the food our parents and grandparents ate even a few decades ago, says Peter van der Toorn, who leads the vegetable breeding division of Syngenta in the Netherlands. Brussels sprouts are a good example. “We still have bitter sprouts on the market, but the majority of what’s introduced these days is milder.”

Downgraded drinks
One way growers do it is to breed the offending compounds out. In fact, humans have been doing this since the dawn of agriculture. Take tomatoes, a fruit many of us wouldn’t even think of as bitter today. One wild species indigenous to Peru can contain 166 times as much bitter tomatine as the mild varieties we normally find on supermarket shelves.
When breeding and growing conditions are not enough, manufacturers can also sometimes remove bitter compounds later on, instead. They call this process de-bittering.
Citrus juices, for example, naturally contain high amounts of phytonutrients such as limonin, naringin or naringenin. “Most juice manufacturers make a concerted effort to limit bitterness,” says Russell Rouseff, a food chemist at the University of Florida. One method involves passing the juice through a bead-like resin that filters out bitter molecules. This can reduce the amount of naringin in grapefruit juice by as much as 64.5 per cent. Surprisingly, home-made freshly squeezed orange juice contains on average fewer healthy phytonutrients than do commercial freshly squeezed juices. That’s because these producers scrape out more phytonutrient-rich peel oils into the drink.
The more we learn about the role of bitter in our diets, the further the effects seem to reach. Drinking cocoa high in flavanols over a period of four weeks has been shown to significantly increase the presence of bacteria in the gut that boost digestion and immune function. These benefits weren’t seen with “dutched” cocoa, which has had the flavanols removed.
Some de-bittering processes are stripping our food not only of the health benefits bestowed by phytonutrients, but also essential vitamins. What’s more, skimping on bitter could have unwanted effects on our waistlines. “Bitter receptors, which are amazingly spread along the gastrointestinal tract and not only on the tongue, are now known to play a pivotal role in many gastrointestinal mechanisms, such as appetite regulation,” says Daniele Del Rio at the University of Parma in Italy. “Therefore, getting rid of bitter compounds, besides depriving our body of potentially protective phytonutrients, is also impairing our capacity to regulate food intake.”
Many scientists working in the field believe that the food industry has a responsibility to make sure that phytonutrients are preserved in our food supply. It would be better for our overall health if we stopped de-bittering our juices and growing increasingly less-bitter vegetables, Fahey says. This would also help safeguard the genetic diversity of our fruit and veg, which is being lost “at an astonishing rate”.
Such a message isn’t always welcome. Some of those working in the food industry argue that they are simply responding to customer needs.
Yet, as consumers become more interested in the health benefits of bitter phytonutrients, the industry is starting to offer foods enriched with these compounds. Beneforte broccoli, for instance, is bred in the UK for its high content of cancer-fighting sulforaphane.
You could argue that a trend towards milder, sweeter produce is beneficial if it means people eat more fruit and vegetables. “If someone who normally only eats fresh fruit or veg once every three days now eats one a day, because of the less bitter taste, would that be a desirable outcome? I suspect that it might,” says Fahey. That’s especially true of children, who generally have a particularly strong aversion to bitter foods.
Still, this approach is not ideal. “Broccoli, for example, will have a number of things that are good for health: low energy density, fibre, vitamin C. But it also has a number of antioxidant phytonutrients, and if those are bred out, the health function of broccoli will diminish,” Drewnowski says.
So it would be even better to find ways to learn to love bitter food a little bit more. One approach is to start young – as with babies fed hydrolysed casein baby formula, a substance so potent that many adults vomit after trying it. Babies who are allergic to cow’s milk are given this formula, and it’s healthy but bitter. “This stuff is absolutely awful,” says Gary Beauchamp from Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia. “But if babies are fed it early in life, they don’t mind it, and they will like bitter for the rest of their lives.” That’s been borne out in research showing that kids fed the casein formula at a young age enjoy broccoli more as toddlers than those who grew up on regular, sweet milk formulas.

Acquired taste
With a bit of persistence older children will take to bitter, too, according to research that shows they have to be offered a new food 10 to 15 times before they start liking it. “The child doesn’t even have to eat the food. Repeated exposure is all parents need to do,” says psychologist Gemma Witcomb, who studies children’s eating habits at Loughborough University in the UK.
“Children need to be offered a new food 10 to 15 times before they start liking it”
Adults, too, can change their ways, not least because an affinity for bitter is partly cultural. The first sip of coffee or beer for most people is lip-curling, but many of us learn to love them because their bitterness is paired with a desirable hit: caffeine or alcohol.
A similar approach could help make more virtuous bitter foods more palatable too, thanks to something called flavour-flavour learning – pairing something you don’t like with something you do like. Both children and adults who drank grapefruit juice mixed with sugar, and ate broccoli with sugar sprinkled on top, learned to like the bitter foods, even without the sugar. And there are ways to cook food to balance out or compliment the bitter tastes.

This goes to show that with a bit of effort we can all change our approach to bitter food. As for sourcing the right ingredients, keep an eye out for heritage varieties, with all their healthy bitterness. But more than anything, just let your taste buds guide you. Whether you learn to like the non-dutched cocoa full of flavanols, or come to seek out white grapefruit that’s stuffed with naringin – the more bitter the better.



August 2014: eat food





 


EAT FOOD


It's almost impossible to resist. Once you're in that supermarket, the wares pull at you and the more refined they are, the harder they pull. The experts who created them know their job. They play on your deepest urges, make a token gesture to any health-ideas you might have picked up (where from?) and have you got the time to produce something from scratch? Of course not.
So 1) avoid the supermaket, 2) avoid watching tv ads, 3) ....  no, it can't be done.

All I've got to help you in this difficult situation is some quotes to remind you of what it is that matters when you buy food.

The first five come from Michael Pollan, In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto.

“Avoid food products containing ingredients that are A) unfamiliar B) unpronounceable C) more than five in number or D) that include high-fructose corn syrup.”

“Don't eat anything incapable of rotting.”

“If you’re concerned about your health, you should probably avoid products that make health claims. Why? Because a health claim on a food product is a strong indication it’s not really food, and food is what you want to eat”

“You are, what what you eat eats.”

“While it is true that many people simply can't afford to pay more for food, either in money or time or both, many more of us can. After all, just in the last decade or two we've somehow found the time in the day to spend several hours on the internet and the money in the budget not only to pay for broadband service, but to cover a second phone bill and a new monthly bill for television, formerly free.”


“Another reason to eat whole foods is that many nutrients work together. You need vitamin C to absorb iron, and saturated fats extend the use of omega-3 fats. There are countless relationships like this in nutrition. There is no need to remember them. Just eat whole foods in their natural state and in classic combinations, such as leaves with olive oil, or fish with butter, and you’ll get everything you need.“ http://www.foodrenegade.com/food-not-nutrients/



EAT:
Veg: aubergines, french/runner/broad beans, calabrese, cauli, cucumbers, fennel, chard, spinach (beet), summer squash, sweetcorn, globe artichokes, beet, carrots, courgettes, cabbage, kohlrabi, lettuce, peas, peppers, radish, turnip, marrow, tomatoes, spring onions, salsify/scorzonera, samphire, rocket, watercress.
Cheap, free range good-for-you meat: rabbit and wood pigeon. Puffballs!
Fish is excellent at this time of year: mackerel, black bream, crab, grey mullet, trout, scallops, sea bass, flounder.

SOW:
Chinese cabbage, spring cabbage, chicory, kohl rabi, lettuce for harvesting November/December, quick variety peas, winter-hardy spring onions, salad leaves, fast-maturing carrots (Adelaide), endive,  red, white (= mooli) and black radish, spinach beet. Lamb's lettuce (corn salad), rocket and especially land cress will survive the winter.
Perpetual spinach, (spinach beet, or leaf beet) tastes as good as 'true' spinach, is more forgiving of soil and weather and doesn't go to seed so quickly. Sow now for winter/spring crop.
Early August only: chard, florence fennel, turnip.
Plantcauliflowers (early in the month), winter cabbages, kale.   

Yes, you can still have fresh vegetables in your garden this winter, if you sow now. Here is what and how:  http://www.verticalveg.org.uk/winter-growing-its-time-to-plan-and-sow/

Raw tomatoes are best for vitamins, as cooking reduces vits C and B6 and strips some of the fibre. However, cooking boosts levels of lycopene, which combats heart disease and prostate cancer. Frying helps the body to absorb the lycopene. So: have them however you fancy!


RECIPES

BROAD BEAN and COURGETTE SALAD  
4 courgettes, 200g podded broad beans (1kg unpodded weight), 2 tbsp olive oil, 10 walnut halves, thyme or savory.
For the vinaigrette: 1 tbsp cider vinegar, 50ml olive oil.
Whisk vinegar and oil with seasoning, set aside. Cook beans in boiling water for 3 mins. Drain, and if they are very old, you may like to remove the skins. Cut courgettes into four lengthways and slice into 5mm thick pieces. Heat oil, add courgettes. Cook, stirring, for 8 mins, until they are light golden. Add beans, thyme/savory and seasoning, cook for another 30 secs. Remove from heat and stir in vinaigrette while still warm. Serve warm with chopped walnuts on top, or cold with some lettuce leaves.

CHARD SOUP with SOUR CREAM (or use spinach)
200g Swiss chard, 3 tblsp sour cream, 1.5l water/stock, onion and/or garlic.
Saute onion (and garlic), add liquid, bring to the boil. Add finely chopped chard, cook 
till done, blitz if you like. Dilute the sour cream with some of the soup, mix all together, season. 

RUNNER BEAN STEW serves 2   
300g runner beans, 3 tblsp olive oil, 3 sliced garlic cloves, large pinch chilli flakes, 2 cloves; 2 x 400g tins plum tomato drained of juice or 400g tomatoes and some tomato puree; basil, grated cheese.
Destring beans and cut on the diagonal into 1 cm pieces. Heat olive oil in a frying pan, add garlic. Cook for 1-2 mins then add beans, potatoes, chilli and cloves. Cook for 2 mins then tip in the drained tomatoes. Cover and cook for 20-30 minutes until beans are tender and the sauce is thick and rich. You may want to add a bit of water while this is cooking, but don't add too much. Stir the basil through just before serving and season to taste. Serve with grain or pasta and grated cheese.

BLOTE BILLETJES IN HET GRAS
*1k potatoes, 600g chopped runner beans, 1 tin white beans ab. 400g, 200g extra mature cheese, 10g chives, lump of butter, mustard, gherkins or capers. 
Cook potatoes in salted water for 20 mins. Cook runner beans till done. Drain white beans and heat them up with the runner beans for the last few mins. Cut cheese in small cubes, chop chives. Mash the potatoes in (some of) their cooking water. Stir in both kinds of beans, the cheese, chives and the butter. Season. Heat till cheese is starting to melt. Serve with mustard and gherkins.
For a non-veggie version, serve with sausages instead of cheese.
 

PASTA with SUMMER VEGETABLES, GOAT'S CHEESE and CHIVES
Cook pasta, and when it is almost ready add peas, broad beans, thinly sliced runner beans and thinly sliced carrots. Strain and immediately put back over the heat with a splash of the best olive oil, sea salt, cracked pepper, snipped chive blossoms, small pieces of goat's cheese and chopped chives or chervil. Stir briefly together.

HERRING ROE on TOAST
Some say you shouldn't eat roe, as this affects fish that are breeding and so the population of the species. However, if you do find some roe in your herring: it's tasty, quick, cheap and very nutritious. Remove the black vein that runs along the sacs, dredge roes in seasoned flour (black pepper, paprika). Heat butter and once bubbling, cook 2-3 minutes on each side. On hot, buttered toast. Lemon juice optional.


SPICY CORN-SPINACH-TOMATO PANCAKE for ONE
ab. 50g cooked corn (from the cob, or a tin), 100g spinach, 130g tomatoes, small onion, 1 egg, 5ml water/milk, 30g flour, salt, pepper, butter/olive oil, chilli pepper (grated cheese).
Mix flour, egg, and liquid into a batter, add corn, season. Saute chopped onion with sliced chilli for 1-2 mins, add chopped tomatoes, fry for 2 mins. Add batter, spread it well over the mixture, cook very low without stirring. In the meanwhile, cook spinach, drain. When the top of the pancake mix is dry, turn it over, fry for 1 min. Put on a plate, spinach on top, plus some cheese if you like.

BOLTED LETTUCE (and the likes) MADE EDIBLE
If you have nothing much in the garden, try the following:
use one variety of greens, or a mix: bolted lettuce, beet greens, borage, spinach, oriental greens, rocket, cos etc, does not matter whether rough, bitter or not very pleasant. Dunk in water immediately - this is important! - after picking, and keep submerged for a few hours. Strain. Cut the leaves. Add some chopped onions and plenty of garlic if you like it. Also lots of herbs and spices - the leaves themselves will have hardly any flavour.
Saute in oil or butter. First, stirring, on quite a high fire to let them wilt; then turn it down. Simmer very gently, covered most of the time for half an hour or longer. Stir every so often. Add salt, pepper and balsamic vinegar. Also grated cheese if liked. Stir and heat through. Done! Nice, and not bitter at all, in spite of the title.




* This is a traditional Dutch recipe. The name means: bare buttocks in the grass.

NEXT MONTH: Traditional Chinese Medicine.